Don't Assume Nonmarital Births Are Unintended

Don't Assume Nonmarital Births Are Unintended

That's a point explored in the book Promises I Can Keep, and today Kay Hymowitz provides a chart (based on CDC data) in Family Studies:

As Hymowitz explains, even the births classified as "unintended" cover a wide range of situations:

The under-reported increase in intended births among unmarried women reinforces the nuanced conclusions researchers have been reaching about the complex psychology of pregnancy and childbearing. Earlier scholars assumed that "unintended" was synonymous with "unwanted." They no longer believe that to be the case. A wide variety of studies have found that most unintended pregnancies are actually "mistimed," that is, a mother-to-be was hoping to get pregnant but not at the particular moment that she did. (Eleven percent of all pregnancies, and a higher proportion among teenagers and women over 35 with children, are described as unwanted.) "Pregnancy intendedness is complex and difficult to measure," observe the authors of one study on the topic. "Previous research has shown that the concept may not be meaningful to some women or that women may be ambivalent." Experts have long been puzzled by the very inconsistent and even negligent use of contraception by young women; this helps explain why.

In a similar vein, here's a brief passage from Promises I Can Keep:

Typically, young women describe their pregnancies as "not exactly planned" yet "not exactly avoided" either -- as only a few were using any form of contraception at all when their "unplanned" child was conceived. Nearly half (47 percent) of mothers characterized their most recent birth as neither planned nor unplanned but somewhere in between. ... [Even among women who characterized their pregnancies as accidental, roughly half] said they were not doing anything to prevent a pregnancy at the time.

Earlier this month I considered the possibility that poor women may put children before marriage because they lack access to "marriageable" men, as well as the suggestion that women should do away with the concept of marriageability altogether.

Robert VerBruggen is editor of RealClearPolicy. Twitter: @RAVerBruggen

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